If We’re Living in a Simulation, Can Randonauting Break us Out?

Computer Simulation

Back in 2003, philosopher Nick Bostrom wrote a now-famous essay making the case that we might all be living in a computer simulation.

He explored three different scenarios: 1) All human-like civilizations in the universe go extinct before they develop the technological capability to create simulated realities; 2) if any of them do achieve the required level of maturity, none will actually run simulations; or 3) significantly advanced civilizations would have the ability to run many simulations, meaning there are far more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering from Pexels

We don’t know which is true, but Bostrom concludes that the most likely is door #3 — that reality and everything that we experience is nothing more than a Matrix-style artificial construct.

Now if you’re willing to accept the idea that our existence is really no different than being NPCs in a giant cosmic video game, wouldn’t there be a moral imperative to try to break out of our virtual prison? Or at the very least alert our programmer overlords that we’re on to them?

These questions aren’t as far-fetched as it might seem. There are two tech billionaires actively working with scientists trying to break us out.

This got me thinking.

How exactly does one go about breaking out of a simulation while a part of it?

Somehow we would have to remove our existence from our current reality and then insert ourselves into either another or the reality that is running the simulations. That’s a tall order.

For starters, it might just be easier to search for signs that appear to confirm the simulation hypothesis. Look for glitches in the matrix — paradoxes in our reality that seem like programming shortcuts. Measuring things like collapsing wave functions while observed or space-time being discrete instead of continuous.

But that’s just confirming our dilemma…not breaking us out. Perhaps instead our best path might be sending some type of unmistakable signal to our programmer masters. Let them know that we’re on to them from within the video game itself.

That is where randomness and randonauting fit in. Let me explain.

Determinism vs Free Will

If true randomness really exists, it might be the key to breaking out of the simulation. And by randomness, I mean in the context of determinism vs. free will and the physical laws of the universe.

There are two camps: Some believe that since the entire universe is bound by physical laws, it’s completely deterministic. There’s only an illusion of free will.

This means any choice that you make is really just the sum of all your experiences, the state of the physical universe, and the chemical composition of your brain at that exact moment.

If the universe were to reboot, and everything was to be replayed in exactly the same order, you would make the exact same decisions at the exact same point in time with the exact same outcomes. Deterministic.

Alternatively in the other camp, if there’s room for true randomness, for example with quantum randomness, then we cannot say that the universe is completely deterministic. If true randomness exists, the outcome of some physical processes can never be predicted. In the ‘universe reboot’ scenario the outcome may not be the same the second time around.

Where this gets hairy is with the simulation argument.

In a simulation, quantum randomness might just be a product of an incredibly complex algorithm created by our clever programmer overlords. What we might think was truly random could instead be the result of a pseudorandom process.

That’s how operating systems create random numbers. A seed number is run through a complex function that results in the appearance of a random number. It’s random enough for most purposes, but if the same seed were to be run against the same function in the future you would see the same result. Deterministic.

For the sake of this argument, I’m going to go with the premise that quantum randomness is truly random, and if we’re in a simulation there’s at least some room for free will as a result.

Here’s where randonauting comes into the picture.

Randonauting is a recent fad where a quantum random number generator is used to determine coordinates for a nearby location which you then go and visit in real-life.

It’s an activity that has been popularized with the Randonautica app which encourages its users to have a specific intention in mind before traveling to the location. The idea is that you can manifest surprising coincidences or synchronicities as a result.

This premise of mind-matter interaction is part of the popular appeal along with the fact that it’s a perfect activity for Covid era social distancing.

Randonauting made me think about how few times we actually go to a truly random destination. Is free will just an illusion?

DIY Randonauting Device
Dujour Randonaut Device

I believe we have the option to exercise free will, but in reality, our choices are mostly deterministic. For the most part, given the same life experiences, we’re going to make the same decisions.

For example, say you’re making a trip to the store because you’re out of bread. There might be two different routes to the store that are equally convenient. Which one do you choose? Perhaps you always take the same route because you like the scenery better, but this time just out of boredom you decide to take the other one.

This decision might seem like free will, but it can be argued that because of the sum of all your life experiences and the chemical processes in your brain at that particular moment, it could have been predicted that you would have taken that alternative route. Not really free will at all.

However, say the route you take to the store is based on a truly random process. A quantum random coin flip that makes the choice for you whether to go left or right this particular morning. This would be an example of going completely off the script.

No one, including yourself, could have predicted which route you would have taken, and since this is the non-deterministic path, there could be cascading implications. Say the route chosen resulted in being involved in a fatal car accident.

This is precisely why I believe randonauting is the key to breaking out of the simulation. Every randonauting journey is the result of a truly random decision. By taking part in this activity, you’ve made the conscious choice of going off the script. The destination is not deterministic and the result can quite possibly alter your life trajectory.

Now, what happens if enough people start to participate in randonauting? Wouldn’t we begin to skew our entire simulation away from any predicted outcome?

What if our simulation overlords are monitoring our simulated reality? I would argue that active monitoring is not that far-fetched. Why go through all of the time and effort to build a simulation in the first place if you weren’t interested in observing the outcome?

If our simulation is decidedly out of whack from the random results of randonauting at scale, perhaps there’s a warning indicator on a master galactic dashboard somewhere turning red. Sending an unmistakable signal that something’s amiss.

If we could alert our overlords that we’re on to them, would we really want to?

At this point, we’ve successfully signaled to our puppet masters that we want to communicate, but since they hold all the cards it would be entirely up to them to fabricate the actual mechanism. Perhaps an avatar would mysteriously appear like an apparition or a religious icon would float down from the heavens to provide us with unimaginable insights and wisdom.

Of course, that assumes that our overlords are benign. I think it’s just as likely that our meddling might prompt a quick reboot. That’s fair. They went through all the time and effort to design a perfectly good simulated reality and there we go mucking it up. Who’s to say there isn’t a giant red power button somewhere waiting to be pressed and just like that 7.8 billion simulated realities would be erased.

How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?

-Plato, The Allegory of the Cave

Ultimately, we need to be careful what we wish for. Simulated or not, there’s comfort in believing that all we know is real. If we do manage to find a way to break out of the box, we might not like what we see.

Building Your Own Randonaut Device

DIY Randonauting Device

Randonauting is an activity where random number generation is used as a tool for discovering and exploring nearby locations. The way it works is that random numbers are used to calculate the latitude and longitude coordinates of somewhere nearby and then you visit the real-world location.

There’s a metaphysical mind-matter aspect to this where your intentions are supposed to influence the randomly generated destination. The NY Times said it best – “Think: the Law of Attraction meets geocaching.”

Why would this work? Well, some believe that by using random numbers generated by quantum processes, e.g. a HWRNG device, it’s possible to mentally influence the chosen destinations. The result is the manifestation of some truly surprising, enlightening or even disturbing outcomes. Case in point, the alarming Tik Tok video where randonauting teens discover a suitcase with dead body parts.

Dujour Randonaut Device

This mind-over-matter premise might not be as far fetched as it sounds. There’s some surprising research that seems to demonstrate that it’s possible to mentally influence random numbers generated by quantum processes.

What happens if you focus on a specific intention precisely when the random coordinates are generated? That is what randonauting is all about.

There’s a few differences between my device and the other apps. First – I’ve added a feature: Time. In addition to calculating random geo coordinates I also calculate a random time for the trip. The idea being that it might be more meaningful to identify a point in both time AND space. Journey to a specific location at a specific time to maximize the experience!

The second difference is in the way that I determine the location. I use just two random numbers to calculate the geo coordinates. Other implementations include the concept of “voids” and attractors” which use statistical algorithms to determine the locations. Attractors are essentially a clustering of values that point to a geo coordinate while a void is the opposite (lack of points). In my opinion these techniques just introduce unneeded complexity.

Voids and Attractors
Source: https://itsandrom.medium.com/randonauting-for-dummies-how-to-hack-reality-with-your-phone-using-quantum-randomness-5ce82f66c10e

This is one of my more involved builds, so you’ll need to have some hardware and python expertise if you want to try this out. I call the device “Dujour” (in homage to The Matrix). To follow along you will need the following:

You might be wondering why use a hardware based RNG when a computer OS can natively create random numbers. Great question. Hardware random number generators use quantum physical processes to create truly random numbers while operating systems use an algorithm. Under the covers the OS based numbers are really pseudo-random. They’re random enough for most purposes, but numbers generated using a quantum process are truly unpredictable (at least in theory). Plus, if you buy into the underlying theory of Randonauting which involves mind-matter interaction, there’s that research seems to show that mental intention can only influence random numbers created by quantum processes.

OneRNG HWRNG
TrueRNG HWRNG

Now you could build this device with a single Raspberry Pi by connecting the hardware RNG to a local USB port, but I prefer a separate device because I do a lot of experimenting with RNGs and it’s useful to have a remote RNG server that several devices can share.

The diagram below details the high-level Randonauting process flow. The primary script is called “rabbit.py” and is run on the first Pi, which I’ll call “Dujour1”. When you run it will make a REST call to the 2nd device “Dujour2” (the hardware RNG host), retrieve a few random float values, and then use those values to calculate the nearby location to explore along with the time to visit. The script then assembles a Google Maps URL and texts it to a phone via the Twilio service.

The video clip below shows the device in action.

Randonauts Device in Action

On the Dujour1 Pi, you’ll need to install and configure linux and connect your display. Follow these steps to connect a Matrix Orbital VK204-25. The image to the right shows the wiring for my display.

For my setup I housed both the Pi and the display in a bell jar and I connected a string of decorative LED lights to the 5V and ground pins on the Pi GPIO header. The jar was just a convenient way to hold it all together plus along with the LEDs I liked the aesthetic. 🙂

Dujour1 – Display Module Wiring

The rabbit.py script requires Python and the following libraries:

  • math
  • numpy
  • subprocess
  • sys
  • time
  • json
  • urllib2

If you get a dependency error when running the script you will need to install whatever module is missing.

There are several variables that need to be set prior to running. They’re all located in the script in the “User Defined Variables” section:

loghandle: path to a text file that logs all runs of the script

window_secs: Used to calculate the maximum seconds in the future to visit the location

meters_out: furthest distance possible for the geo coordinates in meters from your current location

latitude1, longitude1 = your current location (home base). This is used as the starting point

lcd_addr = hex address for LCD display if using I2C communications

HWRNG = IP address and port of remote HWRNG server. XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX:YYYY

There are a few dependencies on external scripts: sendSMS.py is used to send the text message with the map coordinates. orbitalWrite.py is used to drive the display. Place both scripts in the same directory as rabbit.py on Dujour1. Note: my script was developed to work with a specific Matrix Orbital display (VK204-25). If you decide to use a different one, you’ll need to change the code to work with yours. I’ve documented in the script where the interaction with the display takes place.

The sendSMS.py script requires two OS environment variables to be able to authenticate with the Twilio service: ‘TWILIO_ACCOUNT_SID’ and ‘TWILIO_AUTH_TOKEN’. Follow these steps to configure the variables. You will also need to install the Twilio Python helper library.

On the “Dujour2” Pi you’ll need to install and configure Linux as well. This is where you will be connecting your hardware RNG. I used a OneRNG USB device, you can find the setup documentation here. (You can see my server in the image to the right.) Once configured, install and run the rngrestserver.py script to start serving up random numbers to Dujour1. Check here for detail on how the REST server script works.

Raspberry Pi Hardware RNG Server using OneRNG

If you’ve followed along up until this point, you should have everything you need to experiment with Randonauting using your own device. Just run ./rabbit.py from a terminal and the result should be a text to your mobile phone with a map link (like the image to the right).

I’ve had some weird synchronicities when trying out my device. If nothing else, a random journey can open your eyes to nearby wonders that you’ve never noticed before.

In the future I might consider developing a custom Amazon Alexa skill. It would give me the ability to run my Randonauting server from my phone – wherever I might be.

Hey – drop me an email if you decide to build this. Let me know about your experience and any thoughts to improve the project!